Each day, thousands of people suffer from eye injuries which can range from relatively minor to very serious – even sight-threatening. Even the most minor-seeming injury can have long-term implications for your vision and your eye health, so it’s extremely important to understand how injuries occur, the kids of complications they can cause, and how to prevent them in order to keep your sight and your eyes in top condition. Here’s a quick recap of some of the most common injuries and how they can affect your sight:
CORNEAL ABRASIONS (SCRATCHES ON THE CORNEA)
Corneal abrasions are one of the most common types of eye injuries, often occurring when you rub your eye too hard to try to remove an irritation like dust or dirt, or as a result of being poked in the eye. An abrasion can cause significant pain and discomfort, as well as excessive tearing and an increased sensitivity to light. Even a tiny scratch in the cornea is plenty big enough to allow harmful pathogens like bacteria or fungi to enter, so getting prompt care is important to avoid developing a serious eye infection. In some cases, the iris may also become inflamed, a condition called traumatic iritis. If your eye is poked or if you have a foreign object like grit or sand in your eye – even if you can remove it yourself – call the office right away to make an appointment. Don’t place a dark patch over the eye, which may actually spur bacterial growth.
When an object penetrates the eye, prompt emergency treatment is essential in ensuring the eye isn’t further damaged. Never try to remove an object yourself, since that could cause further damage. You might try loosely taping a paper cup or cone over the eye to provide protection while you head to the emergency room.
Chemicals like cleaners that splash into the eye or airborne sprays of chemicals like pesticides can cause significant irritation as well as long-term damage. Don’t equate pain with injury severity; some alkali chemicals can be extremely harmful to your eye and your sight, but they may not initially cause the painful symptoms of acid-based substances. To treat a chemical exposure, place your head under the sink or tub faucet and allow lukewarm water to run over your eye for about 15 minutes to help flush the substance from your eye. Then call the office or head to the emergency room or urgent care center if your eye continues to be very red or painful. Do not rub your eye; instead use a cool compress or ice pack to provide comfort.
“BLACK” EYE OR EYE SWELLING
Eye swelling typically occurs after being struck in the eye by a relatively blunt object such as a ball or even a fist. While most types of swelling will resolve over time, it’s important to be evaluated as quickly as possible to ensure no internal damage has occurred. Place an ice pack on the eye to help reduce swelling and call the office immediately for further instructions.
BLEEDING ON THE EYE SURFACE (SUBCONJUNCTIVAL HEMORRHAGE)
The name is kind of scary and the appearance of a subconjunctival hemorrhage can be kind of scary too. But in most cases, this type of eye bleeding, which appears like a red patch on top of the white portion of your eye (the sclera) isn’t serious. It occurs when tiny blood vessels burst from usually small injuries to the eye – even as a result of prolonged and heavy coughing. Subconjunctival hemorrhages can be very small or they can spread to the entire eye, but they rarely interfere with vision or cause long-term effects. While they normally clear up on their own, it’s always a good idea to call the office to determine if you should be seen.
ORBITAL FRACTURES OR HYPHEMAS
Orbital fractures (or “blowout” fractures) involve breaks in the bones surrounding the eye. Hyphema is a term used to describe bleeding in the portion of the eye between the cornea (the clear covering of the eye) and the colored iris. This space is called the anterior chamber. Both types of injury most commonly occur as a result of severe impact to the eye, such as being hit by a baseball bat or being involved in a car accident. The injuries are extremely serious and require emergency attention.
PREVENTING EYE INJURIES
One of the bets ways to prevent eye injuries is to invest in special protective eyewear, such as glasses or goggles, designed for your specific sport or activity. Don’t skimp – be sure to purchase protective eyewear that’s of the highest quality to provide maximum protection without interfering with your comfort or your vision.
If you do receive an injury to your eye, don’t rub it. Call Sealy Eye Center right away for advice on how to care for the injury, as well as whether you need to come to the office for an evaluation. And for very extreme injuries, such as penetrating objects or orbital fractures, be sure to seek emergency medical care right away.